by Jane Keegan, RDC
A few years ago, within the Sisters of the Divine Compassion community, our Social Justice Board encouraged us to check and reduce our carbon footprint, to help save our planet. Eager to make a difference, I found small ways I could reduce my carbon footprint at home.
I eagerly switched my light bulbs in as many places I could from incandescent to CFLs (compact fluorescent lights). I also changed the cleaning products I used to ones with plant-based ingredients that were more environmentally beneficial. I walked to nearby places instead of driving. I felt I was helping to sustain our planet.
Now it has been suggested that we also check our “slavery footprint.”
It’s hard to believe, but many of the products we rely on or use on a regular basis have come into being through “slave labor.”
I was shocked to learn that, by State Department estimates, there are 27 million slaves globally—a slave being “anyone forced to work without pay, being economically exploited, or unable to walk away” from their situation.
We may have heard, for example, that cotton fabrics are healthier and better for your skin. What we don’t know when we buy a cotton product is where the cotton is coming from. Today young children in Uzbekistan are being forced to pick cotton in the fields, a very painful and painstaking work.
For another example, to quote from a New York Times article, Slavery Becomes a Personal Question Online, “Every day, tens of thousands of women buy makeup. And every day tens of thousands of Indian children mine mica which produces the little sparkles in the makeup.”
You can learn more about this form of forced labor in the New York Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/22/business/22slaves.html and on the website www.slaveryfootprint.org.
“Do you know how many slaves work on your behalf?”
Do you know where the materials in your coffee, your computer, your smart phone, your iPad are coming from?
You may be as shocked as I was when you visit the website www.slaveryfootprint.org and take the quiz.
Perhaps this Lent is a call to not only check our slavery footprint, but more importantly to find ways to reduce it. Spread the word. Tell your friends and colleagues. If we can be instrumental in freeing one person from some form of enslavement, we will have done something very worthwhile indeed.